Category Archives: Going Green

Wow! Charbroiled Burgers More Environmentally Unfriendly than Clean-Diesel Trucks!

I have to admit that I was a little shocked when I came across this article on DC Velocity that referenced recent research from the University of California-Riverside that resulted in a study which found charbroiled burgers produce more particulates than clean-diesel trucks.

Specifically, if a clean-diesel 18-wheeler truck is burning ultra-low sulfer diesel fuel, it would have to travel 143 miles on the freeway to send up the same mass of particulates as a single charbroiled hamburger patty. As per this article on WSAZ News, clean diesel technology is really cleaning up the trucking industry. Recent research from North Carolina State University demonstrated that trucks in compliance with newer standards showed a 98% decrease in NOx and a 94% reduction in particulate matter emissions.

The study, summarized on UCR Today, also found that commercial cooking is the second-largest source of particulate matter in the South Coast Air Basin. Looks like we need to start installing clean cooking technology now!

Anyway, this gives you something to think about that before your next trip to Hardee’s, for example.

Five Precepts for Greening the Supply Chain

A recent post over on the Kenco Blog on Best Practices for Greening the Supply Chain contained five precepts for making your supply chain greener that should be shared far and wide. They are:

  • Realize the Contribution of Efficiency
    Part of green is being lean. Lean minimizes waste. Waste costs money. So when you are efficient, you minimize costs, which, all other things being equal, maximizes profit. As SI has said many times before, green not only makes you sustainable, but it increases the green you have in the bank.
  • Assess the Life Cycle Impact of Products
    When evaluating the sustainability of a product, you have to look beyond the raw materials (and their creation/extraction) and production, evaluate (intended) use, and think about disposal. As SI has noted before, the product should be designed for recycling (and raw material recovery) and at the very least minimize, if not eliminate, waste and landfill requirements.
  • Recognize Green Products & Services
    When presented with multiple product and service alternatives, the ability to recognize those that are naturally sustainable is key to embedding sustainability in your organization.
  • Minimize Resource & Energy Use and Carbon Impact
    Pay careful attention to the amount of resources required, the amount of energy required, and the amount of carbon produced. A truly green process utilizes renewable resources, renewable energy, and is carbon neutral. That may not always be possible, but that is the end goal.
  • Give Back to Society
    While it can be argued that a company can be sustainable without being charitable, the goal of sustainability is to sustain both the company and the society that the company is trying to sell its products and services to. Thus, as the article suggests, a company should at least make some effort to display corporate leadership and engage the community and, preferably, give time and resources to sustainable causes in the community.

Great advice for sustainable companies to live by.

Why Should We Wait for 2025 for the 54.5 MPG Standard?

A recent article over on Automobile Magazine tells us that the Department of Transportation Confirms 54.5 MPG Fuel Economy Standard which will take effect in 2025. WTF?!?

It’s true that this is an improvement over the 34.1 mpg standard for the average fuel economy of new passenger vehicles for model year 2016, and definitely an improvement over the 30.5 mpg for the 2013 year, the reality is that we should be at the 2020 standard now! For example, as per this recent article in the Technology Review, the Delphi engine could boost fuel economy by half. So if we’re getting 30.5 mpg now, we could be getting 45 mpg with this new engine technology.

And Delphi is not the only company working on a variation of gasoline direct injection compression ignition (GDICI) technology and getting very good results. A project jointly funded by General Motors (GM) and Tsinghua University is also developing new gasoline direct-injection compression-ignition combustion mode.

And then there’s research into spray combustion cross-cut engines, including the DOE Advanced Combustion Engine which has posted efficiency gains of up to 40%. (See the Overview.) And research into nozzle geometry, supercritical injection, and other improvements that also contribute double digit enhancements to efficiency. We should be at the 54.5 mpg standard now. In fact, given that the Skyactiv-G 1.3 engine manufactured by Mazda and used in the Demico subcompact (which is also known as the Mazda 2) can get 70 mpg now by using a direct injection mill, a continuously variable transmission, and stop-start tech, we should be aiming for 94.5 mpg by 2025! (Heck, the forthcoming 2.0 L North American Version in the CX-5 will get 40 mpg!)

And while the focus of this research and development is primarily for small consumer vehicles, it’s a given that any improvements made will find their way into delivery vehicles as well and that your fleet will eventually get more fuel efficient, which is key in an era of constantly rising fuel costs. So any push for fuel efficiency is a good thing, and any time one is made, we should be asking, is this aggressive enough?

Why Green Only Accounts for 6% of Electricity in the U.S.

A recent post over on the HBR Blog Network on the supposed decline of green energy did a good job when it noted that renewable energy production in the US has doubled in the past 4 years, and did a better job when it noted that it’s possible to get to almost 50% in a mere five years if a concerted effort is made (as Portugal went from 17% to 45% renewable in 5 years, and Germany generates over 25% of its electricity using renewable sources, to the point that it can generate up to 50% of its peak electricity needs on a good day), but fell short when it came to explain why the U.S. isn’t doing better.

Since I’m a cranky contrarian, I’ll tell you why. Because, collectively, the US, as with many other developed economies, is revelling in the seven deadly sins.

  • Lust
    We want the bigger TV. We want the margarita ville machine. We want the power hogs. So we have to crank up the energy production on the infrastructure we have in place as it takes time to build new infrastructure. And the need for more energy is only amplified by our
  • Envy
    for what our neighbours have. This is clear from the fact that the average American household debt is $117,951 and the average Canadian household debt is $112,329. We keep wanting more, and it requires energy, and we look the other way as production on the current infrastructure is cranked up to meet our demand.
  • Gluttony
    We want the temperature at a constant 21C. 23C? Better blast the air on full. Temperature drop to 19C? Crank up the electric furnace. The energy usage per person in North America is 4 times that of the global average! We absorb capacity as fast as we can add it and want more! And since we already have the infrastructure in place to burn coal and oil, it’s easier to just crank up the furnace even more.
  • Sloth
    Change the thermostat with a smart, programmable thermostat that won’t crank the heat until it drops to 17C or the air until it gets to 24C? That would require work! Walk around and open the windows or close them to manually regulate energy usage? That would also require work! Make sure we turn off the electronics when not using them? Why? When it comes to even doing the little things, we can’t be bothered.
    And then, we have the same problems in our plants and warehouses. Simple things, like timers and motion sensors to turn off lights, excess heat or cooling, etc. don’t get put in place and energy is wasted. Buildings aren’t properly insulated and heating or cooling will leak out almost as fast as the heat or cold air is produced.
    This is the real reason the pace of renewable expansion is being held back. Corporations, which exist for the sole purpose of generating profit for shareholders, are greedy, and investing in renewables takes a lot of up front investment. And while the math demonstrates considerable payoff over the long term, now that we barely think beyond the next quarter, no one wants to wait for the long term payoff anymore. Corporate shareholders want their return now, and taxing the current infrastructure is the quickest way to make a quick buck. Plus, the oil companies want their profits and the coal companies want their profits and the natural gas companies want their profits and, guess what, many shareholders of energy companies also hold shares in oil companies and coal companies and natural gas companies …
  • Wrath
    When the activists demand we do better, instead of taking a good, long look at ourselves, and the energy grid that was built as we passively looked the other way, we get angry that their protest slowed traffic and caused us to be late for work, because …
  • Pride
    We’re too proud to admit we’re wrong, that we haven’t been doing anything about it, and that we need to stand up and say I can make a difference, and, more importantly, I can force my nation to make a difference by spending my dollars on, and casting my votes for, green energy. We could be at 60% renewable energy on the grid by the end of the decade. But for that to happen, we have to really, really, really want it.

Know What Makes an Urban Forest Master Plan Good?

I’m not 100% sure, but I am sure what makes an Urban Forest Master Plan bad. Very bad. And this wasting of 465 pages to say that saving forests is good is very, very bad. Check out the draft of the Halifax Regional Municipality Urban Forest Master Plan. It really does clock in at 465 pages! When this is printed and distributed to council, there goes another tree.